Another women’s bill passed – so what?

Published: November 23, 2011

Women are still raped, killed for ‘honour’, thrown acid on and harassed at the workplace.

So another bill was passed in the National Assembly for taking women rights forward. As a woman, and an ardent advocate of women rights, I should be happy and celebrating. But, seriously, I am not.

In fact, what does this Prevention of Anti-Women Practices (Criminal Law Amendment) Act 2011 have to offer that the Protection of Women (Criminal Laws Amendment) Act, 2006 or the Protection Against Harassment of Women at Workplace Act 2010 did not offer anyway?

Women are still raped, killed for ‘honour’, thrown acid on and harassed at the workplace. Does passing a bill and making it into a law and then leaving it to rot on shelves help? So far, it hasn’t. Pakistan is still third in the list of world’s most dangerous places for women after Afghanistan and Congo.

The PML-Q’s Donya Aziz, author of the newly-passed bill, said in its objectives that the legislation aimed to reduce social injustice against women by proposing severe punishments, which is commendable. However, she and others involved in tabling and passing the bill should not forget that in Sindh alone, some 1,000 forced marriages take place every year, of which a mere 12 to 15% come to notice. The rest die suffocating under ‘political influence’ and the power of money. The ones presented before courts linger due to fake documents, absent respondents and missing witnesses.

My question is: will this bill also counter political suppression and the influence of money in such cases?

Which brings me to the much talked about case of Dost Muhammad Khosa’s missing wife, considered ‘killed’ by many. This can be a good case to begin with, to check the transparency of this law and that of our political parties in power and to test the claim of ‘reducing anti-women practices.’

We live in a country where 14,000 women die every year during childbirth and several more due to unsafe abortions; where 90 per cent of women face domestic violence of some kind and every year more than 1,000 are victims of honour killings; where two-thirds of women are illiterate and more than nine million girls do not go to school; where 70 to 90 per cent of women in rural areas are victims of domestic violence, and a woman is raped every two hours. What is the government doing for them? I hope they are not preparing more bills to pass.

I am not a pessimist, but I am also not an idealist. If we want to make the situation in Pakistan any better for women, we first need to provide them their basic human rights and facilities.


Ayesha Hasan

A sub-editor on the Lahore desk of The Express Tribune. She graduated from Kinnaird College with a masters in mass communication and is a Friedrich Ebert Stiftung Fellow of Journalism at DW, Bonn.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • sukaina ali

    nothing will change.this bill will never be passed by the senate and it will die out like many others before will never become law.the situation of women won’t improve until they decide to improve it themselves.Sitting at home to produce babies only won’t improve your situation.not until our women aim to have lifelong careers will their condition makes the world go and unless our women stop being dependent on their husbands,brothers,fathers for their every expense and financial need the women will continue to be subservient to these male members.Those who accept slavery willingly have no chance of improving their condition.Recommend

  • Faraz Talat

    This bill is not a magic spell to vanquish all misogynism and anti-women practices. But it is definitely a step in the right direction and will help thousands of women who are forced to marry against their will.

    Focus on progress, not perfection. This is clearly progress.Recommend

  • Ayaz Arif

    I am not sure!
    Awareness of women rights among the women is the first step in this direction, how would they stand for their rights if they won’t even know about the laws that exist for their protection?
    Besides, once a woman raises her voice against injustice of her father or husband or the in-laws, the possibility of her leaving her home becomes dire. So where would she go?The Shaheed Benazir Bhutto Centers for Women proved to be very effective in protecting women and even counselors were there to help them unlike Daar-ul-Amaans and Eidhi homes but thanks to the ineffectiveness of the ruling elite, those centers are on the brink of devastation too-Recommend

  • MBN

    Induction of laws such as this is what will give rights workers and civil society members the precedent to stand up for those who are oppressed in this manner. We are not exactly saints in this country and can’t be expected to just be NICE without any reason. If these laws and bills are implemented using the justice system, if the rural women or those are uninformed about these measures are made aware of them, then things WILL change. Its too soon to see a stark change in things.Recommend

  • Parvez

    I think you have made a very valid point in this nicely written article.
    Women’s rights is just one of the issues that suffers from non-implementation of laws rather than the laws themselves. If blame were to be appropriated the lions share for most of our woes would fall on our pathetic law enforcement agencies and a judiciary that has failed society. Recommend

  • Zeeshan

    “Women Liberation” … waooo
    Congrats to our “women” today, on getting this bill passed from the national assembly. I just don’t have words, as to what to comment and how to say. I would take the help of the “picture” pasted as title of this article, which is the true reflection of the meaning of so called “Women Liberation” in our society. A women in a western dress, with out any veil, tight clothes explicitly defining her body parts and shape). Waoo, and the rising sun shining in the front. So dear readers , THIS IS CALLED THE “RISING & SHINING FUTURE”.

    What was the need of bringing this issue in NA, making a hue & cry that look “Islamic Republic of Pakistan” is introducing something which was missing from this “Islamic State” yet that is supported by Islam. …….. Hay wait a minute …. then how-come the state is “Islamic State”, if Islamic teachings are not part of it???

    Readers! why are we deceiving ourselves, why we only want to introduce the portion of Islam which is inline with our “MOTIVES”. Why are we afraid of Islam in totality. Why don’t we endeavor to introduce a complete Islamic system. Are we not hypocrite? to whom and till when we are going to deceive none but ourselves. I ask Ms Donya Aziz, “Mam! why dont you make an effort (strictly inline with Islamic teachings) to introduce Hijab Bill which would make it obligatory to women to wear Hijab before they expose themselves to Naa-mehrams while moving and working in the society”…… Readers you know why ??? because that is strictly forbidden by the Aaka (US & the west).

    There was no need to present this bill, Islam is very clear on the subject. What stops the courts to issue a decision strictly inline with Quran or Sunnah???? If courts could take decisions on precedence’s set by the cases/examples from the western history then why cant they also base their decisions on the principles of Quran and Sunnah.

    The present bill is an effort to further tarnish our society and breaking the family-hood and making the state-hood. Readers! The effects of feminist moments across the world should be visible to you now.

    We should be ready now, for facing the instances where the young girls , influenced by the west, assisted by the social media threatening and fighting with there Parents, asking them for there share of inheritance in Love of there boyfriends. Dont worry people.! the society is Westernizing or u can say So-Called Modernizing.

    Tomorrow the situation would be similar to the west and your 5 years old would be calling the police station, asking them to get hold of the parents who are harassing him/her. Believe me the time now is very close, u would witness this happening before you.

    WAKE UP, this is the call of the west to break the Family Fabiric still left in our society. We dont have to take Islam and Quran in Isolation or bit and pieces we have to take it as a whole.

    In the end I would yet again request the Lady (Ms. Donya Aziz) to present yet another bill for protecting and ensuring the rights of “Breast Feeding” to the newborn, strictly in accordance with the Quran, for minimum of two years. Who are these women for snatching this fundamental right from the infants, after all they have been provided with the breasts for the same reason. Unfortunately they think that it affects there shape and yet unfortunately this newborn is unable to raise his voice and present his bill.Recommend

  • ana

    @ Zeeshan

    u dont know the first thing about this bill do you?
    This bill forbids marrying of girls to Quran, forced marriages, inheritance theft of women’s share and alot more..these are unislamic practices.

    as for your Hijab bill, first of all it is a very controversial topic…Scholars like Fatima Mernissi and Amina Wadud hold that modest dressing doesnot mean Head scarf and abaya…Islamic women have always been misrepresented by the MALE MUSLIM CLERICS over the years…Majority of Pakistani women observe Chaddar and Burqa and headscarf but still get raped and abused.. and if you want the Hijab bill then you should also talk about BEARD BILL for men…

    n u seem to have a certain frustration against women in western attire…perhaps it is your inability to get a hold of them….n why is social fabric and family structure always threatened by Feminism??Breast feeding is not easy but now NGOs and feminists want to encourage this practice and are working on it…

    As for pedophilia-sexual abuse of children, it has got alot to do with pornography viewership and it is already very prevalent in Pakistan..atleast children in west have support programmes to go to while our children just live on the streets…

    There are nice men in Pakistan, those who dont hit women or treat them like cattles but due majority men like you we will never progress

    and in Pakistan’s case, AKAA is not America,, it is SAUDI ARABIA,my birth place Recommend


    Wow it is so shameful to hear this. I am from Trinidad but descend from Punjab, it is so upsetting and disgraceful to see what women in Pakistan go through, thank God this does not happen in my country. Also excellent article to have the courage to highlight this. I admire youm and with more exposure like this article, things will eventually change for the better.Recommend

  • Aakasa

    I was in dark. I wasn’t scared.
    I saw a dog coming. I wasn’t scared.
    I saw a man coming. I was scared.
    :) When words leave off, silence captures the true essence of what we want to say.Recommend